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By Christine E. Sears (auth.)

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Additional resources for American Slaves and African Masters: Algiers and the Western Sahara, 1776–1820

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53 None of these describe the North or West African tradition of enslaving Americans and Europeans. Europeans and Americans held in Africa had few opportunities to procreate; thus, their status was rarely passed to offspring. Religion and national affiliation, not race, determined who would be enslaved. Few Europeans or Americans in Africa worked in agricultural settings. 54 A few operated as elite slaves in North Africa, accumulating wealth and power, an idea that US slaveholders believed threatened their social order.

By the late eighteenth century, Frenchness was equated with freedom; thus, if one were French, one should be free. 51 Slavery, then, is culturally specific, and what slavery is depends on where and when it was practiced. Because of this, it is virtually impossible to “distill” a “universal meaning” for the term. For Shaler and many of his contemporaries, the victims of North and West Africans occupied a blurry, amorphous state that some categorized as slavery while others insisted it was not. As scholars try to define precisely this experience that was fuzzy even for those who lived closest to it, the exercise, though intellectually interesting, becomes anachronistic.

36 Enslaved Catholics had many options if they wished for religious support or fellowship. They might attend services or visit a slave hospital’s Catholic chapels. In the sixteenth century, each prison boasted a Catholic chapel, but by the late eighteenth century, only the hospital’s chapel remained. Catholic priests, mostly Spanish, staffed the hospital and the attached chapel, where they conducted daily services for hospitalized or unassigned slaves, such as the papalunas. Priests freely entered the prisons during the day, and performed religious services or privately met with slaves before the nightly lock down.

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